Waiting for the next foot to drop…

As health care consumers got new patient patient protections effective this week–the six-month mark from passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health care and consumer advocates are awaiting whether Governor Schwarzenegger will allow California to take the next steps, by signing key bills on his desk to implement and improve upon federal health reform.

The Governor had over 750 bills sent to him by the Legislature this year–and he has less than a week to sign or veto, by the deadline of September 30th.

Because of his trip to Asia and an ailment, the Governor didn’t even start going through the bills on his desk until yesterday, when he released his first batch of signatures and vetoes. This batch did not include any of the health reform-related measures.

So for the next week, many of us will be refreshing the “press release” section of his website, looking for a new “Legislative Update” announcing new decisions on bills.

What’s at stake? The Governor can sign laws that conform state law to the new federal rules, but also laws that go beyond the federal minimums, and that go early, so more Californians can benefit.

If the Governor signs the bills to set up an exchange, AB1602/SB900, California can be ready on day one for families and small businesses to take advantage of federal funds to better afford coverage. The Governor pledged earlier this year to work to implement the federal health reform law to maximize the benefit for Calfornians, including setting up a new health insurance exchange, and he should seize the opportunity with the bills on his desk.

With his pen, the Governor has the power the ability to ensure more access for children to get coverage, and more affordability for those with pre-existing conditions. The Governor can also ensure that maternity coverage and mental health benefits are part of basic insurance plans, and are phased in early.

With consumers just starting to see the results of additional oversight on insurers, which has been desperately needed, there is much more is left to do, to implement and improve reform, so we can fulfill the promise of the law. Our Governor should build upon the foundation of the federal law, and sign the pending legislation to take advantage of the law’s opportunities, from early adoption of consumer protections and coverage options, to ensuring that Californians know their new rights and options.

For more information on the bills, check out the new report by Health Access California documents the new patient protections in place as a result of the new federal health law, as well as additional changes that are coming online from both the federal government and from California-specific implementation efforts, including the potential pending state legislation now on the Governor’s desk.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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